Subject description processes

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1 Subject representatin Subject descriptin prcesses Overview Fur majr prcesses r areas f practice fr representing subjects are classificatin, subject catalging, indexing, and abstracting. The prcesses vary in their rigins, purpses and results, nt all f which are directly related t libraries. Fr this reasn, they als differ in specific techniques, cnventins, and (unfrtunately) terminlgy. The library and infrmatin science (LIS) literature tends t fcus n nly ne r tw f the prcesses at a time, which can be cnfusing fr the reader. Nwhere des there seem t be balanced cverage f all fur prcesses r an explicit explanatin f their differences. This mdule is intended t make thse distinctins. Functins f subject representatins LIS views subject representatins as secndary infrmatin bjects that describe the intellectual cntent (abutness) f primary infrmatin bjects (dcuments and queries). Althugh queries certainly have subjects, the emphasis here is n dcuments: the bjects represented in infrmatin retrieval system recrds. The term dcument is used belw instead f bject t avid the awkwardness f saying "the subject f the bject." Subject descriptins serve t... Supprt subject access t dcuments f all kinds Infrm searchers abut intellectual cntent f the dcuments Prvide cnsistency f representatins They als serve t... Organize shelving fr physical brwsing and retrieval Assist in cllectin develpment and acquisitins Assist in cllectin maintenance

2 INFO 5200 / Subject descriptin / p. 2 The bjectives f subject descriptins are t... Prvide access by subject t all relevant material Prvide subject access t materials thrugh all suitable principles f subject rganizatin Shw varius kinds f subject cncepts, based n similarities f matter studied, methd, pint f view, r applicatin f knwledge Prvide entry t any subject field at any cnceptual level frm the mst general t the mst specific Bring tgether references t materials that treat substantially the same subject regardless f disparities in terminlgy Prvide entry thrugh the vcabulary understd by particular grups f users Prvide a frmal descriptin f the subject cntent f any dcument in the mst accurate and precise terms pssible, whether the descriptin is in the frm f a wrd r brief phrase r in the frm f a classificatin number r symbl Prvide a means fr the user t select frm amng all dcuments in any particular categry, accrding t any chsen set f criteria, such as mst thrugh, mst current, r mst elementary. Prcesses and prducts f subject descriptin Each f the fur prcesses classificatin, subject catalging, indexing, and abstracting differs frm the thers in several ways: Purpse: The type f intellectual access prvided and whether physical access is als prvided Entity level: The level f dcument cntent described, frm whle dcument t parts f dcument Surrgate: The prduct r result f the prcess, cnsisting f ne r mre terms r cdes that serve as access pints and surrgates fr the dcument. Surrgates vary in the Number f terms and symbls used Precisin and specificity f terms and symbls Internal rganizatin f terms and symbls Language: The type f vcabulary r cde used t create the surrgate Surce: The surce f the language fr creating the surrgate. (Majr examples nly are shwn belw: many mre surces f terms and cdes exist.) The differences in the prcesses are detailed belw and summarized in a table at the end f this mdule. Nte that these prcesses riginated in a variety f infrmatin settings, each with its wn terminlgy. If yu understand the distinctins belw, yu will find it much easier t understand the LIS literature!

3 INFO 5200 / Subject descriptin / p. 3 Classificatin Classificatin is prbably the ldest frmal methd fr rganizing infrmatin bjects, dating back t the earliest knwn library cllectins f clay tablets. Its riginal and cntinuing purpse is fr physical access. Its prduct, a cde called ntatin, is part f the familiar library call number. This very cmpact surrgate is what the user scans t find a dcument n a shelf. It als cllcates dcuments n similar subjects and therefre facilitates intellectual access thrugh brwsing. The limitatin f classificatin is that a dcument can be shelved in nly ne place, even if it has mre than ne subject. The cncept f physical access is evlving with the need t classify electrnic infrmatin bjects. Purpse: Physical access, fr lcating dcuments n the shelf; and intellectual access thrugh cllcatin f dcuments n the same subject, relative t rest f cllectin Entity level: Subject f whle dcument; ne subject nly fr shelf lcatin Surrgate: Ntatin (ne nly), a cmbinatin f class cdes; usually first part f dcument call number Language: Classificatin cdes Surce: Library f Cngress Classificatin (LCC), Dewey Decimal Classificatin (DDC), thers Subject Catalging Subject catalging, als based in library traditin, grew frm the desire fr a representatin cntaining mre subject infrmatin than a classificatin cde. Catalgs began as printed lists f scrlls r bks and, as publishing increased and libraries began t grw at a faster rate, evlved int card catalgs with far greater flexibility. A catalg prvides intellectual access as an alternative t physical access: it identifies subjects that are nt evident frm physical lcatin. Online catalgs prvide even mre access because the user can search subject descriptin and physical descriptin fields (e.g., subject and authr) simultaneusly. Purpse: Intellectual access; identifies multiple subjects and relatinships amng subjects Entity level: Subject(s) f whle dcument Surrgate: Subject heading; usually several terms cmbined in prescribed rder; abut ne t three subject headings per catalg recrd Language: Cntrlled vcabulary Surce: Library f Cngress Subject Headings (LCSH), Sears List f Subject Headings, thers Indexing Indexing is a mre recent develpment than catalging. It grew, in part, ut f the desire f the schlarly, scientific, and technical cmmunities t describe individual jurnal articles instead f the whle-jurnal entity level f catalgs. Indexes in their many frms, including back-f-the-bk indexes, use multiple terms t describe a variety f tpics and subtpics. Purpse: Intellectual access; identifies multiple subjects and relatinships amng subjects Entity level: Subject(s) f whle dcument and/r internal subtpics

4 INFO 5200 / Subject descriptin / p. 4 Surrgate: Index term r descriptr; usually many discrete terms listed in dcument (back-fbk index) and/r in an index t literature in a discipline Language: Cntrlled vcabulary r natural language Surce: Thesaurus f ERIC Descriptrs (cntrlled vcabulary), ther thesauri, r text f dcument (natural language) Abstracting Abstracting develped alng with indexing. Next t full text, abstracts are the mst cmplete representatin f intellectual cntent and ften the mst helpful t the user. Because they are written in natural language, they can indicate verall purpse and directin f a wrk as well as cmplex relatinships amng subject cncepts. Purpse: Intellectual access; identifies cmplex internal cncepts and relatinships Entity level: Subject(s) f whle dcument plus internal subtpics Surrgate: Cntent synpsis; usually ne at beginning f dcument and/r in an index t literature in a discipline Language: Natural language Surce: Text f dcument, althugh thesaurus may be helpful in finding apprpriate terms fr the discipline All fur prcesses are nw used t describe infrmatin bjects in libraries and ther settings, such as the Wrld Wide Web. In many settings, the prcesses are als used partially r exclusively fr physical descriptin. They are presented here as subject descriptin, hwever, because subject descriptin is particularly challenging and a majr basis fr their inceptin. Relevance t the curse This curse cvers classificatin, subject catalging, and indexing but des nt cver abstracting. In library practice, classificatin is cmmnly subsumed under catalging, where catalging cnsists f three tasks: descriptive catalging (physical descriptin), subject catalging, and classificatin. Libraries typically d catalging and classificatin, publishers d indexing and catalging, and bibligraphic utilities d bth. The vcabularies (sets f terms) used fr subject catalging and indexing are generically knwn as indexing languages, as described in ther mdules. Classificatin is addressed last in a separate set f mdules, which is apprpriate because it is ften the last subject descriptin task t be cmpleted. Prject Alert! Fr the IOP, yu practice tw f the prcesses abve: indexing and classificatin. The IOP results in a catalg (the Inmagic database), but the apprach t cntrlled vcabulary is taken frm indexing practice (multiple discrete subject terms) instead f subject catalging practice (cmbined terms in subject headings). This is nt unusual and may in fact be a trend, especially with infrmatin bjects in electrnic frmats.

5 INFO 5200 / Subject descriptin / p. 5 PROCESS CLASSIFICATION SUBJECT CATALOGING INDEXING ABSTRACTING PURPOSE (kind f access prvided) Intellectual access; traditinally als physical access, fr cllcatin (shelving) f samesubject dcuments Intellectual access, as alternative t physical access; identifies subjects nt evident in shelving Intellectual access, as alternative t physical access; identifies cnceptual relatinships amng subjects Intellectual access nly; identifies cmplex cncepts and relatinships INFO 5200 Summary Table: Subject Descriptin Prcesses and Prducts ENTITY LEVEL (level f dcument described) Subject f whle dcument; ne subject nly fr shelf lcatin Subject f whle dcument; multiple subjects fr interdisciplinary dcuments Subject(s) f whle dcument and/r parts f dcument (subtpics) Subject(s) f whle dcument and parts f dcument (subtpics) SURROGATE (frm f dcument representatin) Ntatin: cmbinatin f class cdes, ften first part f dcument call number; ne ntatin nly per dcument Subject heading: ne r mre terms; ften several subject headings per dcument in catalg recrd Index term r descriptr: ne r mre terms; usually many descriptrs per dcument in subjectarea index and/r back-fthe-bk index Cntent synpsis: sentences r phrases; ne abstract per dcument in subject-area index and/r beginning f dcument LANGUAGE (type f wrd r cde used fr surrgate) Class cdes Cntrlled vcabulary Cntrlled vcabulary r natural language Natural language Nte: Dcument includes any frmat f infrmatin bject (e.g., text, image, sund). Term is ne r mre wrds describing a single subject. SOURCE (example f cntent resurce) Dewey Decimal Classificatin (DDC) r Library f Cngress Classificatin (LCC) scheme Library f Cngress Subject Headings (LCSH) list ERIC Thesaurus (cntrlled vcabulary) r text f dcument (natural language) Text f dcument; thesaurus may als be helpful All INFO 5200/4200 curse materials are cpyrighted and may nt be cpied, revised, r distributed in any frm r venue, beynd their use by students fr purpses f fulfilling curse requirements, withut prir permissin f the authrs r the University f Nrth Texas.